The World Telecommunication and Information Society celebrated the fact that billions of people around the world are now connected to a smart, networked environment and looked ahead to new and previously unimaginable possibilities of communicating.

“These welcome developments make it even more urgent that we continue to pursue our goal of bringing the rest of the world’s people online, so that they too can access and create extraordinary social and economic benefits,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a message to people around the world, said: “Information and communication technologies provide smart solutions to address climate change, hunger, poverty and other global challenges.

They are key instruments for providing mobile health care and access to education, empowering women, improving efficiencies in industrial and agricultural production, and safeguarding the environment.”

Mr. Michael Møller, Director General of the UN Office at Geneva, represented Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2016 marks the 151st anniversary of the establishment of ITU, which was founded in Paris on 17 May 1865.

Global focus on ICT Entrepreneurship for Social Impact
The celebrations in Geneva today brought together leading academics, incubators, and entrepreneurs to discuss the significance of ICT entrepreneurship to create social impact.

Keynote addresses and an interactive panel discussion focused on ICT entrepreneurs and start-ups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which have a key role in ensuring economic growth in a sustainable and inclusive manner.

They are often the source of innovative ICT-enabled solutions that make a long-lasting impact in global, regional and national economies, and are an important source of new jobs especially for youth. SMEs make up more than 90 per cent of all businesses worldwide, and represent a ‘path out of poverty’ for many developing countries.

Whurley, co-founder of Honest Dollar, a start-up based in Austin, Texas, USA, which aims at bringing honesty, transparency, and simplicity to the financial services industry, urged governments to apply better interventions to support small businesses.

Mr. Alexandre Weber, co-founder of Seedstars World, a business incubator in more than 50 emerging markets, focused on creating ideas, programmes, platforms and products for start-ups and ventures, and provided a status update on the emerging market tech start-up scene.

Mr. Raphael Silva, co-founder of the Ludwig Project based in São Paulo, Brazil, delved into the social impact of ICTs by showcasing how developers create unique and life-changing applications for social good, such as introducing the hearing impaired to the world of music. He is a member of the Red Bull Amaphiko network of social entrepreneurs.

A panel discussion outlined best practices in enabling ICT innovation through small business development, both in terms of applications and development of the ICT sector.

The panellists included Ms Katherine Mulligan, Director, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship; Ms Candace Johnson, President, EBAN (European Business Angel Network); Mr. Marcos Vaena, Chief of Enterprises and Competitiveness, International Trade Centre; Whurley and Mr. Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General.

The debate was moderated by Astrid Zweynert, award-winning Journalist, Editor and Social Media Specialist at Thomson Reuters.